Nimble Minded

a description; thoughts are my own

Great Cities Do Smart Things

In the latest act of desperation from supporters of Shockoe Stadium, flyers have allegedly been distributed on vehicles touting “facts” about Shockoe Stadium (Revitalize RVA). Let’s take a closer look at the flyers, and decipher these “facts” in the order they appear. Hat tip to Graham Moomaw of RTD for providing the flyer image. (By the way, for actual facts, see my earlier post on Shockoe Stadium here.)

First side:

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  • First of all, a PLAN is a HYPOTHETICAL. That means, if all things go right, then the outcome or results are reality. To say the project will generate $200 million in net revenue for the City over 20-years is not a fact, it’s a wish, a pipe dream, and a logical fallacy. But the City spouts off logical fallacies all the time, here’s one from this morning.

    Now, let’s assume we can predict the future and see the “net revenue” 20-years after the project is completed. Surprise! Have we discovered the biggest “accidental” typo ever? Confused? Review this article, where Mayor Jones says it’s not $200 million, but $20 million after 20-years. But the saddest part is that this is what we have come to expect from the City - carelessness. An order of magnitude? Psh, who cares.

    And while $20 million sounds appealing, that’s over 20-years. Which is $1 million per year on average. Which is 0.1% of the projected FY2015 General Fund revenues (see page 27 of the PDF here). That’s one-tenth of one percent.

    But since the City always gets it right and can never be wrong, let’s take a quick look at the wildly successful Redskins Training Camp, here. What’s that? The Richmond EDA gives excuses for missing revenue projections? But I thought they will happen? But never fear, as the EDA points out, there will be plenty of money to go around once the City is collecting full rent (yeah, and same once I win the lottery).

    While we’re here, net revenues are predicated on… forecast expenditures being correct. So if projected expenditures increase, and projected revenues stay the same, then the projected net revenue will decline. And if you looked at the previous link, you’ll see that for the Redskins Training Camp in FY2013, the EDA very strongly underestimated expenditures. Why? Because as a new facility there was no history to use to estimate expenses (I guess people are incapable of picking up the phone and calling the county where the previous facility was). Which is a crafty way of saying, we picked expenditure numbers from the sky and did not rely on empirical evidence or any measurable factor to forecast them. Read the minutes yourself here.

    And this is just the first bullet!

  • The land is not unused, it’s currently being used. So this fact is factually incorrect.

  • This fact is also factually incorrect. The Boulevard is open for development - that’s why the City relocated all of its fleet management repairs to the southside. Where, by the way, “its floor can’t support the hydraulic lifts that city technicians need to hoist vehicles into the air for repair.”

    But who foots the bill for this stellar, once-in-a-lifetime, free lunch? Taxpayers! Of course! As Ned Oliver notes: “Another worker says it’s been impossible to keep up with jobs, which has forced more outsourcing to private shops.”

    Jane Ferrara of Economic & Community Development pitched this as a great win for the City and one we had to capitalize on else miss out forever (sound familiar?). Ned notes, “[Ferrara] also said her department had determined that “after extensive market research and evaluation” that the new facility on Commerce Road could be used as-is.” The infallible Administration wins again.

  • This one is a bit technical, but there’s no evidence that the projected jobs created will (1) use those who are unemployed within the City limits or (2) use those who are unemployed within the City limitsĀ and who are captured by the poverty rate. There’s also no evidence that these are permanent jobs, which is implied by the “fact” (admittedly, by stating that I’m assuming that of the 800 jobs cited, at least 1 is temporary, such as a construction job).

    Also, when conducting economic impact analysis, it’s a bit misleading to say “X jobs” could or should be created (to be fair, this is pretty common). What the jobs forecast really means is that additional labor hours are forecast to be demanded, where 1x job = 2,080 hours of labor. In other words, “creating” 1x job could simply mean two people who work part-time at 20-hours per week move to full time at 40-hours per week. Technical explanation here.

  • A hotel? Really? You can create a hotel, but what’s to say anyone will stay in it? I bring this up because there’s a brand-new hotel going up at 14th and East Cary, and another being converted from office space to hotel rooms at 7th and East Main (above the USPS). Those are two additional hotels that the analysis seems (on the surface) to never have taken into account, which would overestimate demand, and therefore projected revenue as well.

    Lest not forget everything being stressed about the Slavery Heritage Site only became a reality in November. The plans from 2009 never mentioned it once. This was a bone the Administration threw in hopes of quelling the opposition.

  • This last bullet may be summed up as “blah, blah, blah”. By what metrics or empirical evidence is this based? There’s already a stadium. So what we’re left with is presuming the Slavery Heritage Site is the primary driver of tourism (I mean, are you driving to Richmond to see a Hyatt Hotel or Kroger?). And to that I ask: Why not simply build the site with the $10.6m in funding (from FY2015 budget) appropriated to Shockoe Stadium? Why not use that money to build a world-class slavery history museum (that could actually be a primary driver of tourism)? Why can it ONLY be paired with a stadium?

Second side:

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  • More on the Slavery Heritage Site. All other commercial and residential development will take place 100 yards away (emphasis theirs). Really? 100 yards? That’s 300 feet. Or, to put in perspective, you could park just under 18x of RPD’s newest cruisers bumper-to-bumper. Eighteen. A huge distance!

  • Um, you don’t need a stadium to create a Heritage District. You didn’t need Christo and Jeanne-Claude to install The Gates to create the Arts District.

  • Already addressed. Oh yeah, Doug Wilder (former Virginia Governor, former Richmond Mayor) proposed a stand-alone “Slavery Hertiage Site” as well. Not saying that is the end-all be-all (wow, a public dialectic process what an idea!) but you can read about it here.

  • Honor all of our history? Like, not recklessly spending taxpayer money and failing to meet projected revenues while exceeding projected expenditures? Oh wait, that’s not in our history.

  • Not even going to dignify a response to that.

Now, none of this addresses some of the other obvious concerns with the proposal. Such as, why in the crown jewel of Shockoe Stadium renderings Broad Street ceases to exist. More on that, here. This also doesn’t address how the “new and improved” (wow what a deal!) traffic study has parking numbers that don’t line up with those on the Revitalize RVA webpage (um, hello?). Nor the fact that the Richmond EDA is expected to provide… wait for it… 2,525 parking spaces within 1/4 mile of the ballpark (which, by comparison, is about 6x of the Bowe Street parking decks VCU owns, link). Or the fact that to have mis-matched numbers so far, the City has spent half a million dollars.

But hey, at least the Mayor intends to leave the City better than he found it (link). Sorry, but that starts with our community over bullets on a resume.

And just because you stuck with me through all this, here’s a picture of Mayo Island with a baseball stadium on it (courtesy RTD, link):

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